The uselessly criminal exploit was in your blood now, and there could be no better target than the Epsilon Chi house to hit, now that you had conquered TAE and Delta Kappa. Epsilon Chi was lower down on the fraternity totem pole than your first two targets, but unlike the others its members still put stock in the silly traditions and rituals of its traditional Southern fraternal order. The Epsilon Chis were the only fraternity on campus to do things like elect a fraternity sweetheart, and choose “little sisters” of the fraternity from each new Freshman class. As such, the EX house was awash in institutionally sanctioned fraternity trinkets: lacrosse sticks and crew oars emblazoned with the house’s letters, sweatshirts and trophies, beer steins with pledge names, and rows and rows of professionally designed composite pictures of the fraternity brothers.
These were the kinds of things that other fraternities on campus thought were stupid and tried to eliminate from their chapters. Whereas the Delta Kappas, for example, despised the “travelling tools,” as they referred to the national fraternity representatives who oversaw their goings on, the Epsilon Chis sought to please their national fraternity and uphold its standards as stringently as might a chapter in the middle of the Deep South. And though the secret traditions of nearly all fraternities are whispered about, if you had to pick a house most likely to actually have engaged in the kinds of homosocial? homosexual? sadomasochistic? rituals you heard mentioned, the EXs were certainly the most likely of this campus’ candidates to have participated.
Like all fraternities, there was an air of secrecy about that house, and a certain East Coast and/or Old Southern aristocratic air to the house that both fascinated and creeped you out. Once, you were at an EX party, talking to your friend Ty (who had been recruited by the EXs, as well as several other fraternities, during rush quarter of your Freshman year), when you were approached by Daniel Finch, a notorious Junior alcoholic and card-carrying member of EX. Daniel Finch had taken a liking to you early on in the year, and had asked you to several date parties which you attended not because you liked him, but rather because the fraternities held such a fascination for you, and you felt like you wanted to know more about them, and about the boys who joined them.
Daniel Finch, his obvious issues with alcohol aside, seemed like a relatively normal person beneath all of the greek bullshit. Yet that night, as he tried to rush Ty for EX, he explained that Ty would potentially play an important role in the fraternity. “See,” Daniel Finch had slurred, “We have one graduating this year.” It seemed like a strange conglomoration of words to you, but then you were a sheltered Anglo-Saxon from a fairly homogenous town in Southern California. Your experience with demarcations of difference was limited, and you were not yet suspicious of statements like these, made by drunken boys wearing Polo and too much Drakkar Noir.
When Daniel Finch left, Ty had said, “Did you hear that?” and chuckled. And you–dumb–said, “What was he talking about?” Ty explained, “They ‘need’ me because they have only one other Jew in the house, and he’s graduating this year.” And you knew he was right, and sure, Daniel Finch was a lush, but still, wasn’t it odd that he, in this day and age, would not only think of a Jewish person as a token, but also feel comfortable being open about it. Initially, you wondered where Daniel Finch would have picked up the idea that these were acceptable expressions, to blatantly treat humans as objects, and to advertise to those very humans the fact that you did so. It was strange, wasn’t it?
And then you realized their meetings, secret as they were, were probably not concerned with partaking in the rituals that you had heard rumors about–”elephant walks” and circle-jerking, and the like. Instead, they probably served as safe spaces for instances like these–the place for banalized bigotry and anti-semitism, quotas and the superficially cleaned-up, postmodern version of racism. Because now that you thought about it, there was only one black member of EX, too, and you wondered if they’d be looking for his replacement once he graduated as well. [And, sure enough, when Dave Bilson graduated in the Spring of 1994, Tiger Woods had just started at Stanford, and the EXs were bragging all over campus about his intentions to pledge EX. What a pity that Nike had to crash their quota-filling party with a $60 million contract! What a prize Tiger would have been, eh boys?]
The treasures of the EX house were cherished and, for the most part, guarded by protective glass. This was not a deterrent to you or to Tanya, who had many times attempted and succeeded, while drunk, to break glass in order to reach your uselessly criminal ends. You figured that, since EX was rented out during the summer, just like the other houses, the house would be mostly empty until late at night. And besides, the sounds of breaking glass could be disguised by closing the chapter room doors.
But upon arriving at the EX house, you realized with dismay that you had underestimated the difficulty of the EX Job. Unlike your previous excursions, this one required tools. The oars were bolted to the walls, and the beer steins and pictures were not only behind glass, but locked glass doors of an alarming thickness. It seemed unlikely that you would be able to break the glass, and this was something Tanya knew right away. Immediately, she said that it was time to abort the mission, for these reasons and for the fact that she heard some people outside in front of the house. She turned and ran out the back door, assuming you were behind her, and only when she was outside, under cover of darkness, did she notice you were still inside.
You wouldn’t give up. There was a special mystique to these fraternity artifacts, and it wasn’t quite the same as the novelty and obscure criminality of a re-stolen street sign, or the kismet poeticism of the initials you found at the TAE house. This was something about collecting tokens, and placing them behind thick glass, of taking things and dropping them into a different narrative, positioning them to fit the story you had drawn up, making them want to belong to a story that you had constructed of whole cloth. And you felt that this something they had built, that it was a sinister something, and though perhaps there was still a part of you that wanted to belong to it, well, now that you were drunk perhaps you were railing against it. Perhaps you felt encased by their glass, as well, even if it was you who had put yourself there. And maybe this was your small, insignificant, and pathetic way of breaking out.
So, there you stood, in the middle of the EX chapter room, trying to chip away at the thick glass that held these fellow travelers of yours, wanting to break them out and destroy it all, and not fully understanding why, while Tanya escaped to safety. And as the two men walked through the front door of the house, she watched through a window as you, finally registering the issue at hand, collapsed into a heap on the floor. There, you waited for them to notice you, as Tanya looked through the window in horror, as the men said, “Wait, there’s somebody in there!” and came to rescue you, the delicate flower, who drank too much and wandered into the wrong place late at night.
“Hey, do you know where you are?” one of them asked.
“Wha . . .?” you trailed off, playing the drunk. Well.
“Let’s get her on the couch,” the other one said.
“Where are you from?”
“Do you need a ride home?” they were helpful, these guys, and so you played dumb.
“What should we do?” one asked the other.
“Well, let’s go call somebody,” the other one said, and they walked off, allowing you to jump up and run out the door into the darkness to find Tanya.
And so it was that night that the student became the teacher, in many ways. What you lacked in stealth you made up for in boldness. And though she had looked in horror through the window at what you had done, sick with worry about what might happen and mind racing as to how to resolve the situation with the least collateral damage, now she looked at you with what might only be described as pride. “Let’s get you a drink,” she said, and off you went to paint the town red.